This week is Israeli Apartheid Week. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has been organizing events every day of the week to discuss various facets of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. As a part of these ongoing dialogues, Wesleyan Students Against the Fossil Fuel Industry (SAFF, formerly Wesleyan Fossil Fuel Divest) affirms its support for Palestinian liberation from Israeli settler colonialism as well as the Standing Rock Sioux’s sovereignty and resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza appropriates Palestinian history and culture, normalizes state violence against Palestinians—such as bombings, military operations, police brutality, and invasions—and takes their lands through violent and illegal means (including settlements). In its occupation, Israel also perpetuates an apartheid state that discriminates against Palestinians. Apartheid extends from decreased legal, political, and economic rights for Palestinians, to the denial of access to basic needs, such as land for agriculture and water.
In this way, the Zionist state project may also be seen as enacting a type of climate colonialism, or the practice of organizing environmental and climate damage to happen in colonized places and to people affected by normalized colonial violence. Indeed, Israel’s climate colonialism includes the extraction and usage of coal in occupied lands; the overexploitation of water at the expense of Palestinians’ access to water for drinking and agricultural use; the taking or degradation of arable Palestinian lands; and the dumping of garbage and toxic industrial waste on Palestinian lands, contaminating both water and soil. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change exacerbate those of Israeli settler colonialism, and vice versa.
Indeed, as Alice Rothchild writes in her article entitled “Climate Justice and Palestine: the New Intersectionality,” due to climate change, “the average rainfall is decreasing and the Jordan River will soon run dry. The Gazan aquifer is so over-utilized and salinated, experts have been saying that there will be no drinkable water for 1.9 million people by 2016 which is, after all, now…. At the same time, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is characterized by water confiscation and contamination. [Since 1967,] [t]he Israeli government refuses to allow Palestinians to drill wells or build dams and repeatedly destroys water and waste treatment infrastructure, massively uproots olive trees, and bulldozes farm lands, sometimes for settlements or the separation wall or bypass roads…. Israel’s state owned water company, Mekorot, diverts 90% of the water in the West Bank aquifers to Israel…. Israeli per capita water use is four to five times greater than [that of] Palestinians…. Jewish settlements in the West Bank also include massive industrial zones…, often dumping toxic waste into Palestinian farms and water sources.”
Therefore, climate colonialism and settler colonial violence go hand in hand. In addition to eliminating Palestinians and dispossessing them of their lands, Israel enacts domination through the overexploitation and contamination of Palestinian water and lands. Similarly, U.S. settler colonial violence against indigenous peoples is also ongoing. As the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee (BNC) stated in a 2016 open letter to the Standing Rock Sioux, “settler-colonial authorities use resource extraction and other economic and bureaucratic pretences as a way to solidify control over indigenous land and dispossess indigenous people.” The Dakota Access pipeline is no exception. DAPL is built on stolen indigenous land, desecrates sacred indigenous sites, transports harmful fossil fuels, and threatens the water and soil of indigenous peoples. #NoDAPL is just one example of an anti-colonial struggle among many. Indeed, indigenous resistance has been ongoing since the first colonists set foot on this continent, and the U.S. exists on stolen lands. The U.S. continues to disregard indigenous sovereignty; to extract fossil fuels on indigenous lands; to deprive indigenous peoples of clean water, clean air, and land; and to dump nuclear and industrial waste on indigenous lands. U.S. climate colonialism operates alongside its settler colonialism.
Thus, settler colonial and environmental violence against indigenous peoples, from Israel in Palestine to the U.S. in Standing Rock and beyond, are inseparable. Given these linkages, SAFF reiterates its support for Palestinian liberation and for indigenous sovereignty, including that of all recognized and unrecognized tribes within the boundaries of the so-called United States. The elimination of indigenous peoples, the dispossession of their lands, the exploitation and abuse of their water and soil, and the exacerbation of climate change are all related as components of U.S. empire.
Authors’ Note: SAFF will be participating in a protest against Wells Fargo located at 111 Washington St., Middletown, CT. Wells Fargo is a major financier of the colonialist DAPL project. The protest is organized by the Dragonfly Climate Collective and will take place Friday, April 6, at 3PM. Students are encouraged to join; we are meeting at the University Organizing Center, 190 High St., at 2:45PM to make signs and walk to Wells Fargo together.